As the only school in its district to implement a schoolwide, take-home 1:1 initiative, Raymond J. Fisher Middle School in Los Gatos, Calif., knew that it needed a technology platform to help it ensure student safety in the online world. “We’re in the third year of our 1:1 program,” said Matt Baldwin, Principal, “and unfortunately in education, we tend to be reactive versus proactive.”
Mr. Baldwin is referring to a time in 2018 when students were creating memes and saying negative things about one another via Google Classroom, Docs, and Slides. Unaware of the situation until it “got taken too far and was reported to us,” Mr. Baldwin noted that the school started looking around for a service that would quickly clue it into those inappropriate communications and situations in real-time—not after the fact.
“From the administrative perspective, we were just reacting to what we saw happening in one specific situation,” stated Mr. Baldwin. “Moving forward, we knew that we’d run into similar situations and wanted to correct it.” After selecting the Gaggle student safety platform, the school rolled it out across all of its grades in January 2019.
“The good thing about Gaggle is that it goes so much above and beyond that,” added Mr. Baldwin, “by making sure that we have a service in place to help support students that might be in need, specifically as it pertains to safety.” Citing student safety as the school’s “number one” priority, he said the platform provides an additional layer that allows administrators to ensure that students are safe on campus and off-campus.
While some administrators will assume a student safety management platform will put more work on their plates, Mr. Baldwin noted the opposite is true. In fact, he commented that Gaggle has helped his school streamline the process, narrow things down quickly, and then have good and open conversations with students about what’s going on.
Having a student safety management platform in place also allows Raymond J. Fisher Middle School’s teachers and administrators to educate students on the cornerstones of good digital citizenship. “We tell them that we’re not here to discipline them, but that we’re here to help educate them on how to appropriately address situations in Google Classroom,” Mr. Baldwin said, “and give them advice on how to navigate the world from the social media and educational technology perspective.”
With a user agreement that’s signed by students and their parents, the school also requires all sixth graders to take a jumpstart program that shows them how to interact (both on and off campus) using a Chromebook. “They get certificates upon completing the program even before they set foot on campus,” continued Mr. Baldwin, who sees communication as a large part of the program’s success. Before implementing Gaggle, for example, administrators introduced it first to its school advisory council (which is made up of parents).
“Then, we took it to our staff and did a full lesson on how to use the platform,” stated Mr. Baldwin. Next, the school sent out a parent letter explaining the process and held a parent information night. “We also did a couple of video announcements to students, showing them what Gaggle is and what to expect. “By the time we rolled it out on January 7th, everyone was well aware of what Gaggle was, what it meant, and the purpose behind it.”
Today, when the student safety platform generates an alert, it’s sent either to the school’s assistant principals (level one and two alerts), or to the superintendent and Mr. Baldwin (for level three or higher) and he believes both parents and teachers have embraced the platform for its core benefits and capabilities.